I am currently reading Stolen Life by Jaycee Lee Dugard. A friend had mentioned Jaycee’s story a while back and for reasons I could not explain I found myself wanting to know more about her tragic abduction. In the event you have been hiding under a rock the past few years, Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 at the age of 11. She was abducted from her street while walking to school. Eighteen years later, her abductor Phillip Garrido visits the campus of UC Berkeley and his strange behavior, coupled with the behavior of the two young girls with him (Jaycee’s daughters) brought about an investigation that lead to finding Jaycee Lee and confirming her identity.
It is an odd, painful, sad, amazing read. I have found I have had to pick the book up and then put it down. It makes me feel sick. I realized today, why, besides the obvious crimes perpetrated against Jaycee and her daughters, it made me feel a bit queasy.
Throughout most of the book we are forced to see the world through Jaycees eyes – first as a young girl, then a young mother, then a woman in her twenties. Through the 18 years of her imprisonment, she becomes attached to Garrido. Despite the horrible things he does to her, she is utterly dependent on him for food, clothing, housing and the care of her children.
And yeah, here is where I gasp.
I have been reminded at various times in the story of my own attachment and dependence on Colleen Rogers, my case worker from Easter House. While I do not for one moment consider my own trauma to be anything like Jaycees, I could relate strongly, too strongly, to the fondness one can feel for ones captor. Jaycee is left alone in a makeshift domicile and looks forward to her captors visiting. I was sent away to a maternity home located in a large city, one thousand miles from my family, and I counted the hours until my captor caseworker would come back to see me. I smiled broadly when she arrived with gifts in hand and felt incredibly special when she took me out somewhere to eat.
I realize I am still, almost 26 years later, entangled with my caseworker and I don’t like it one bit. I disliked that I want her to talk to me. I want her to respond to my emails and my snail mails. She doesn’t and it upsets me. Like my daughter, Colleen ignores me and my requests for contact. I am a non person, I don’t exist. I want to talk with her, ask her to fill in gaps for me, answer to the things she did and said to me. I want her to say she is sorry, she was wrong. I want her to say that I was a good person and I could have, and should have, been a good mother. I want to read and see those letters of mine she said she kept (at least I think I do?). I want validation from her that I exist today and I existed back then. I want her to see me as more than just an incubator for the child her employer later sold to a family from New Jersey.
The conflict inside me is intense. It is confusing. I sway between contempt for her and a desire to connect with her. I want to go out to drinks with her and reflect on my maternity home days and I want to back hand bitch slap her. Several times. I get angry at myself for thinking anything kind about her. I feel dirty for trying to justify her actions.
It makes me feel ill that the only person that I believed cared about me during my maternity home confinement was the same person that told me to abandon my child to strangers, and I did. It makes me sick to think that there is still part of me that feels something soft and kind towards her. Intellectually I realize this behavior is a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse. It has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors. Unfortunately, knowing that intellectually does not seem to lessen the conflict inside me.
I am only half way through Jaycee’s story. For all the reasons mentioned above and more, I have been reading very slowly and very deliberately.
I am not sure I will have the intestinal fortitude to complete it. Jaycees story — and my own — may make it too difficult to do so.